Top water polo action opens the world’s largest pool
With the other Olympic pools have been reshaped to legacy mood in London and Sydney, based on its seating capacity, as of today the Danube Arena in Budapest is the world’s largest swimming pool and it will be inaugurated with the very best of water polo in the next three days.
Site of this July’s World Championships, the Arena can accommodate 12,000 spectators and there is a good chance to see capacity crowds in the coming days as the Champions League Final Six tournament is commencing.
LEN Treasurer Tamas Gyarfas, also speaking on behalf of LEN President Paolo Barelli, emphasised “This event has multiple value today as this is the very first official meeting in this beautiful arena, built for the World Championships. And it’s not by accident that we officially open it with the Final Six. Water polo enjoys huge popularity and respect in Hungary, thanks to our greats like Dezso Gyarmati, Gyorgy Karpati or the three-time Olympic champion team coached by Denes Kemeny.”
Host federation President Denes Kemeny said that they felt honoured to host another great LEN water polo event after the success of the 2014 European Championships and last season’s Final Six. “It seems that our guests were satisfied with what we could offer them and LEN has its trust in us to stage another big event. We are ready to do something really memorable in this fantastic venue.”
LEN Bureau water polo liaison Alexandar Sostar added that all players were keen to play in Budapest where water polo enjoys unique appreciation. LEN Operations Manager Marco Birri recalled the recent successes of European water polo as the last edition of the Europeans in 2016, besides breaking the single-attendance record with 18,500 spectators at the final, ended up in a cumulative TV viewership of 146 million, a quite significant result. Champions League action also enjoys great popularity and not only in Europe: the games in Budapest will be streamed in the United States (will also be available for free on the LEN website for everyone, for the first time with live commentary).
Balazs Nemcsik, head of the organising committee shared the current stats on the ticket sales which show that massive crowds will attend the Arena’s opening event: 25,000 spectators are expected to turn out during the three days, an absolute record in club water polo history.
Thursday is quarter-finals day and the first encounter is quite fitting for the opening of the venue: it’s the re-match of last year’s final between Jug
Dubrovnik (CRO) and Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE), and the winner faces Recco (ITA) on Friday. The other clash will see Eger (HUN) and Brescia (ITA), Szolnok (HUN) awaits for one of them in semis.
What the protagonists say
Ognjen Krzic, sport director (Jug – winner in 2016)
“We came here to repeat the miracle from last year. If we hadn’t been ready for that, we wouldn’t have been there. It’s going to be even harder than last year, we know each other pretty much with Olympiacos, we know what to expect from the other side, some little details will decide.”
Therodoros Vlachos, head coach (Olympiacos – runner-up in 2016)
“Last year we were ready to achieve something big once more after 2008 when we had played in the Final Four for the last time. We almost made it, this year we want something better but it’s going to a tough road, first the title-holder, Jug, then, in case of a win, Recco, then one side from the other half. In order to clinch the trophy we have to beat the three best clubs in the world. But this is Champions League.”
Zoltan Kosz, assistant coach (Szolnok – bronze medallist in 2016)
“After last year’s third place we want more and the team is well-prepared both mentally and physically. We play in the strongest league in the world, against Eger, another participant here, OSC which barely missed the F6 this season and Ferencvaros, winner of the Euro Cup. One cannot imagine any better practice to be ready for this tournament.”
Eraldo Pizzo, Vice-President (Recco – 4th place in 2016)
“Last year we were unlucky as Stefano Tempesti was injured, and he is not only just a goalkeeper in this team, he means much more for us. This time we are here with our full potential and we want to lift the trophy. I know it’s always a special feeling to do it here in Budapest, I can remember from my playing career back in the 60s that it was the biggest feat to win something in Hungary.”
Norbert Dabrowski, head coach (Eger)
“After two lost quarter-finals now we definitely want to go further. Now we finished second in the group so it seems a bit easier task but it will be hard, we all know that. Still, our team got stronger in this season and I do think we can make it this time and we might have one more match against Szolnok. It might be boring to play with them again after the home finals but we are eager to get bored.”
The team of Brescia arrived after the press conference.
Quick facts and figures
- Interestingly, this is the third European cup final in Budapest this season: Ferencvaros won the men’s Euro Cup, UVSE won the women’s LEN Trophy – now we will see if the Hungarians winning series continue or not.
- Recco is the only team having taken part in all four editions – they won in 2015, was 5th in 2014 and 4th last year.
- This is the third participation for Jug, Szolnok and Eger, and the second for Olympiacos and Brescia.
- There are three former winners, Recco, Jug and Olympiakos – and three teams which wants to win the trophy for the first time: Szolnok, Eger and Brescia. The former winners form one half of the draw, the other three are in the other half, so the final will see a match between one former winner and one newcomer.
- Budapest is a good omen for Olympiacos and Jug, both won the trophy once here: Olympiacos in 2002, Jug in last year.
- Though there is no Serbian club in the Final Six, almost the complete Serbian Olympic gold medallist national team will be here (altogether 9 of the 13 Rio champions): three in Recco (Filipovic, Mandic, D. Pijetlovic), three in Szolnok (Prlainovic, Gocic, Aleksic), two in Eger (B. Mitrovic, M. Cuk), one in Brescia (Randelovic).
- There is a huge media interest: 143 accreditations have been approved, 86 journalists, 38 photographers and 9 broadcasters.
Day 1, 25 May, Thursday
19.00 Olympiacos Piraeus (GRE) v Jug Croatia Osiguranje Dubrovnik (CRO)
20.30 ZF Eger (HUN) v AN Brescia (ITA)
Day 2, 26 May, Friday
For places 5-6
17.30 Losers of the QFs
19.00 Pro Recco (ITA) v Olympiacos/Jug
20.30 Szolnoki Dozsa-Kozgep (HUN) v Eger/Brescia
Day 3, 27 May, Saturday
15.15 Bronze medal match
16.45 Champions League Final
For free live streaming of all matches, play-by-play action and detailed stats, visit the LEN website (www.len.eu).